Premier Wen Jiabao praised the incoming Japanese prime minister's attitude to the Yasukuni Shrine Wednesday and called for closer cooperation in the latest sign of warming ties between the two big Asian economies.
The Democratic Party of Japan swept the long-dominant Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) from power in an election late last month and has vowed to seek better ties with the country's neighbors.
Democrat leader, Yukio Hatoyama, virtually assured of becoming prime minister, has pledged not to visit the shrine while Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals are honored at the site. Many of Japan's neighbors see the Tokyo site as an offensive symbol of past military aggression.
China welcomed this step and Premier Wen's comments, reported by the Xinhua news agency, underscored hopes for smoother relations.
"China appreciates the Japanese Democratic Party's positive attitude towards relations with China, and is willing to strengthen communication and cooperation with Japan's new Cabinet, enhancing mutual confidence," Xinhua quoted Wen as saying.
The report said Wen made the remarks to a visiting Japanese business group.
Japan and China are respectively the world's second and third biggest economies and both appear eager to focus on building mutual trade and trust and downplaying frictions over wartime history, military policy and sea boundaries. Bilateral trade grew to $266.4 billion in 2008, a rise of 12.5 percent on 2007, making China the top two-way trade partner for Japan.